Your business has a personality, and it might be a sociopath.

Sociopathy is a subset of Antisocial Personality Disorder.

In an earlier post, I discussed how desirable businesses carry the same traits as desirable people. Business leaders understand this, to an extent, so most businesses invest lots of money and energy into creating a desirable image. That image is necessary for people to trust them and ultimately give them money.

Most folks call this branding and marketing.

However, when the financial goal of a business is not supplemented with one or more greater purposes (we call these second and third bottom lines) that company has only a self-centered story to tell. It makes for a very flimsy brand and it breeds a wholly self-interested personality within that company — no matter how well masked it may be.

Interestingly, sociopaths behave the same way.

The Symptoms
Wikipedia lists the symptoms of Antisocial Personality Disorder, many of which have been displayed quite publicly by large corporations in recent years — Enron, Massey Energy, Nationwide Mortgage, etc. Take a look at the few symptoms I’ve listed here (inserting my own notes) and think about the way your company treats employees, customers, vendors and partners. Think about whether or not your core priorities and systems of behavior benefit others in addition to yourself.

Is there any chance your company’s personality is sociopathic?

  • Apparent lack of remorse or empathy for others
  • Persistent lying or stealing (intentionally avoiding the acknowledgement of valuable contributions from employees /partners; withholding reward)
  • Recurring difficulties with the law (resistance to regulations that protect the interests of others)
  • Promiscuity (lacking faithfulness; failing to fulfill commitments to other people or organizations)
  • Tendency to violate the boundaries and rights of others
  • Poor or abusive relationships (manipulating employees, partners or vendors for your own advantage)
  • Disregard for safety

So, how does your company rank?
Remember, many examples of these corporate traits have only been exposed after high-profile scandals reach headlines — past the point of no return for the executives who should have been working diligently to combat them. Don’t dismiss the very real risk that your corporate personality may embody one or more of these traits, even if they haven’t landed you in jail… yet.

Still think you’re in the clear? Here’s another description from Wikipedia:

“Other common characteristics of those with Antisocial Personality Disorder include superficial charm, shallowed emotions, a distorted sense of self… manipulation of others without remorse or empathy for the victim. Egocentrism, megalomania, lack of responsibility, extroversion, excessive hedonism, high impulsivity, and the desire to experience sensations of control and power…” [emphasis mine]

Don’t expect a business with a sociopathic personality to fare very well when attempting to build lasting, profitable relationships. No contrived brand image can mask the real personality that pumps through the veins of your organization — the world has become far too transparent for that. Your brand must be authentic, which means it must be embodied by your culture.

Brand = Culture

If you pay your employees as little as possible and devalue their contributions in order to justify it, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. If you nickle-and-dime vendors for the lowest possible rates instead of investing in shared stability and success, you’re forfeiting profitable long-term relationships. If you reward supervisors for squeezing productivity out of workers rather than affirming their valuable contributions, you’re sabotaging the passion and vision your organization could otherwise provide for your customers.

Ten years from now your sociopathic organization may be plenty profitable, but your competitors who have invested in value and trust will be out-performing you 9-to-1.

Now go make some changes.

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One Response to Your business has a personality, and it might be a sociopath.

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Your business has a personality, and it might be a sociopath. | Succincity --

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